School Board, Say What?

This post serves as a supplement to 11/5 Issues LIVE! Episode 2: School Board, Say What?.

If you haven’t yet seen Sunday’s episode of 11/5 Issues LIVE! , I’d encourage you to take a peek and learn more about the history of our school system and how it operates today. You’ll see that there are many historical decisions that have legacies impacting us today. I will clarify two topics below.

So, knowing what you do now, what are you going to do about it? You might remember I touched on the fact that there are School Board advisory committees on various topics. I want to outline some of them for you to consider how you might want to get involved.

It’s how I started my advocacy journey here too! In fact, did you know that the current chair of the School Board was, many years ago, the chair the Advanced Academics Committee when I was a member on it?

There are two kinds of School Board Committees:

  1. Standing Committees

  2. Citizen Advisory Committees.

Below are some examples of each:

Comprehensive Planning Development Committee - Develops and recommends a comprehensive planning process, monitors that process, and suggests improvements to the Board.

 Public Engagement Committee - Plans strategies, topics, timelines, and other matters related to Board and community

 Citizen Advisory Committees:

Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (ACSD) - A local advisory committee for special education, appointed by each local school board member, shall advise the school board through the division superintendent

Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee - Provides recommendations to the local educational agency (or board) on current job needs and the relevancy of career and technical education programs.

Human Resources Advisory Committee - Assists the School Board in fulfilling its commitment to EE and non-descrimaitnion as essential components of educational excellence.

Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee (MSAOC) - Advocates for minority student achievement by identifying, reviewing, and assessing issues affecting minority student academic achievement

Both types of committees overlook FCPS long-term to see where Fairfax County wants to be. They take in community input to chart the correct course to move us towards our goals.

 As I have mentioned to you all, this past year Melanie Meren (candidate in Hunter Mill district!) and I served as co-chairs of the Human Resources Advisory Committee. In the past, I served on the Superintendent Selection Committee, the Advanced Academics Committee (mentioned above), and the Ad Hoc Student Rights and Responsibilities (Discipline) Committee. In fact, this committee was inspired by a case that involved my own peer from Mantua Elementary— Nick Stuban.

You can find the full list of committees and read more about what they do here. See which interests you and reach out to your School Board member about where your perspective may add value!

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I also want to clarify a few things about where decisions are made that influence education right here in Fairfax. As you know, there are not only local but also state and federal policies that impact our communities. So, what are the differences between Fairfax County’s School Board and Virginia’s Board of Education?

On the state level, the governor appoints a Secretary of Education to devise and implement an effective learning plan for the state. This person is currently Secretary Atif Qarni, a former teacher. We are proud to be the only campaign who has received his endorsement! The Secretary has his own staff and works with the governor to execute a statewide vision.

Separately, Virginia’s Board of Education primarily handles statewide educational standards, staff qualifications, implementation of federal legislation and assistance programs, as well as rules and regulations for state programs.

 Specifically, it is charged with:

●      Setting statewide curriculum standards;

●      Establishing high school graduation requirements;

●      Determining qualifications for classroom teachers, principals, and other education personnel;

●      Establishing state testing and assessment programs;

●      Establishing standards for accreditation of local school divisions and preparation programs for teachers and administrators;

●      Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and administering federal assistance programs; and

●      Developing rules and regulations for the administration of state programs.

Nearly every other education-related matter is mediated through the local School Board, and many of the listed responsibilities of the Virginia BOE are handled in conjunction with them. For example, ESSA will be a big deal this year because the required deadline for schools to report per pupil funding (for the first time ever) is coming up!

As you might infer from the video, effective School Board members also advocate for the county to the state and federal government. To support initiatives like the Portrait of the Graduate and to educate more holistically, it is important for School Board members to build and maintain positive relationships with other elected officials. I’m excited to work with all those who represent Fairfax!

As you can infer from what I said in the video, the School Board does handle a lot and it actually advocates for the county to the state and federal government! If we want to move away from a very test-centered and support the Portrait of a Graduate, we need to petition the state to give us the flexibility to do while still doing our part to ensure our students are very prepared with the skills they need beyond graduation.

I’m running for School Board because I want to make sure that’s the case! I look forward to continuing to write to you and share my reflections about what is happening. I hope that you all do not hesitate to be in touch if we can make anything easier for you to understand!

See you at a committee meeting!

Abrar

Abrar Omeish